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Dive into Raleigh’s local elections morass 

And so our biannual cluster-eff begins.

Friday noon marked the end of qualifying for the Triangle's municipal elections, which means we can step back and take a lay of the land. The biggest surprise, at least in Raleigh, was that Councilor Wayne Maiorano declined to seek reelection, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, which we suspect is code for "This gig only pays 14 grand a year and I don't need this shit."

But nonetheless there are, somehow, a veritable bevy of contenders, both in Raleigh and Durham and elsewhere who covet the privilege of being screamed at by perpetually outraged neighborhood activists in all-night council meetings for basically minimum wage. Power can be such a tease.

Still, these are the people who, for better or worse, will be charting our future; we're here to help you get to know them.

Raleigh

We'll begin with the race for mayor, where incumbent Nancy McFarlane has drawn a challenger in the person of Robert Weltzin, a chiropractor/Wake County Taxpayers Association sympathizer who challenged McFarlane two years ago. McFarlane won with 73 percent of the vote, and Weltzin has been invisible ever since, so there's no reason to expect a different result this time out.

The two at-large races will prove much more interesting. Russ Stephenson and Mary-Ann Baldwin are generally well-liked, though Baldwin tends to be more receptive to development concerns and Stephenson leans in the other direction. But they nonetheless have two credible challengers to fend off: Craig Ralph, a developer who helped found the Southeast Raleigh Assembly and has served on the boards of the Raleigh Transit Authority and the Raleigh Downtown Improvement Commission; and the more exciting, or at least less generic, Matt Tomasulo, the young visionary behind Walk Raleigh, which became Walk [Your City], an initiative to encourage people to explore their hometowns on foot or bike. This is his first time running for office, but he knows his stuff, and could represent a new vanguard in city leadership. That's not to count either incumbent out—we like them both—but their paths toward reelection won't be cakewalks, and maybe an actual contest of ideas is what this city needs right now.

On to District A, which the freshman Maiorano is vacating: Not only is he not running, but neither is the guy we thought might beat him, Randy Stagner, who narrowly lost to Maiorano two years ago. Instead, this will be a contest between three gentlemen of considerable political pedigree. J.B. Buxton was Gov. Mike Easley's top education aide and deputy state superintendent of the state school system. Now he's a nationally known education consultant who chairs the new PAVE Academy Charter School and serves on the city's Planning Commission, which will no doubt endear him to all those North Raleigh neighborhood groups. Richard "Dickie" Thompson, meanwhile, chairs the RDU Airport Authority board and is said to be Mayor Nancy's choice. He, too, has served on the Planning Commission. And finally, Edwin "Eddie" Woodhouse Jr., a Republican with deep roots in North Carolina politics. He worked for Sen. Jesse Helms for years. There are probably people who think that's a good thing, but we don't know any of them.

District B: John Odom versus David Cox, the driving force behind neighborhood groups like Grow Raleigh Great and NORCHOA. Cox led the successful campaign against the North Raleigh Publix, and has been a thorn in the planning department's side ever since. Odom, a moderate Republican who's been on Council since Christ was a carpenter, could well be in trouble.

District C is another old-guard-versus-new election. The old guard here, of course, is Eugene Weeks. The new guard is second-time candidate Corey Branch, an engineer who has served on the boards of the Raleigh Transit Authority, WakeUP Wake County and the African American Caucus of Wake County Democratic Party. Which is to say, he's legit, he's energetic, and, were we the gambling sort, we'd thrown a few bucks down on him.

Here's something we did not expect: Somebody's daring to run against Kay Crowder, who is as close to sainthood as Raleigh politics allows. This somebody is Ashton Mae Smith, a young Citrix employee who serves on the board of housing nonprofit DHIC. If you believe the rumor mill—and we do, always—she's Baldwin's candidate for District D. If true, that could make for some wonderfully uncomfortable moments on the dais.

And finally, District E, where Bonner Gaylord will have to fend off two challengers: DeAnthony Collins, a first-timer who manages an early childhood education center; and the more formidable Edie Jeffreys, a longtime neighborhood activist who is, like virtually all challengers this cycle, trying to channel UDO-related apoplexy into an upset. The question is, will she amount to anything more than a speed bump on Gaylord's road to the mayor's office in 2017?

Reach the INDY's Triangulator team at triangulator@indyweek.com.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Electo-Rama 2015!"

  • Electo-rama 2015! Old guard versus new guard in mayor, City Council races

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